Spring Customs Around the World
As spring reaches those of us in the Northern hemisphere, the world is
beginning anew. The spring rains are bringing forth new growth all around us, and
the temperature is finally creeping warmer virtually every day. It's no wonder,
then, that Spring is considered to be a prime time for celebration throughout
This time of year brings the Chinese celebration of Spring Festival, also
known as the Chinese Lunar New Year. Chinese people often put up long rolls of
red paper with black writing and pictures of fierce-looking creatures on either
side of their front door. The red paper rolls usually contain lines of poetry
transcribed by a calligrapher and the Gods Shen Tu and Yu Lei, who are
believed to protect people from devils and evil spirits .
The spring Pakistani festival of Basant is held in the ancient eastern city
of Lahore. This festival is marked by a litany of kite-flying, rooftop soirees,
garden parties and equestrian events. Locals and tourists alike don glamorous
clothes, in the yellow and green of spring flowers blooming citywide, to bid
farewell to the frosts and fogs of winter and usher in spring.
The Vernal Equinox is considered one of the most important days of spring, as
it marks the first day of spring when day and night are each approximately 12
hours in length. However, as the month of April draws to a close and winter
is falling further and further away, the joy of May Day (May 1st) is celebrated
in many different ways.
In Germany, the celebration of Walpurgisnacht on April 30th and May 1st
celebrates the release of winter's hold on the land and the oncoming joy of summer.
Children celebrate in a similar fashion to Halloween, playing pranks on
unsuspecting victims as midnight draws near. Many people hold witches fires to
ward off the evil spirits of winter. And on May 1st, it is believed that the
earth spirits like sprites and fairies emerge to bring the land safely to summer.
People celebrate with great feasts of food and drink as the look forward to
the coming of summer.
During the times of ancient Rome, spring was fated with the Feast of
Floralia. This celebration marked the flowering of the grains and the bounty of the
animals as spring continued. It's actually believed that the egg became an
important symbol during this time period, as it noted both the egg that brought
forth life and the egg that nourished people. As this festival evolved, people
began creating eggs out of many materials, including chocolate, as gifts for
their loved ones. Young matrons carried these eggs with them in baskets
throughout the Spring, trying to determine the possible gender of a future child.
In the British Isles, many people celebrate the Festival of Beltane on May
Day. Lighting fires was customary at this time, and traditionally a Beltane fire
(very similar to the witches fires of Germany) was composed of the nine
sacred woods of the Celts. When daylight comes, people celebrate by dancing and
singing around a maypole tied with colorful streamers or ribbons.
May Day never was celebrated as much in the United States as it is in Great
Britain because of the Puritans discouragement of the day as a pagan holiday.
However, many American communities still celebrate this time with May queens
and the hanging of May baskets filled with flowers and chocolates on the
doorknobs of friends and family.
One spring ritual that always graces the news in the United States is the
blooming of the cherry trees in Washington D.C. These beautiful trees that line
the Tidal Basin in the capital of the United States were a gift from Japan over
100 years ago and bloom every spring and bring with them a site that every
American should see at least once, a sweet smell to the air that not even modern
pollution can dim, and a warmth of the knowledge that spring has indeed
arrived. The blooming of these trees is always eagerly awaited by both locals and
tourists alike, and the few benches along the route are often taken in the wee
hours of the morning by sightseers waking up with a bit of coffee or hot
chocolate from a vending cart.
This article was published on Wednesday 30 April, 2008.